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I was one of those kids who never walked when they could run. I took up downhill skiing and loved it. I jogged. I threw footballs with my Dad. I would walk for miles. I never stopped to think about breathing because it was just something that you did automatically. It was only when I was living in Colorado in 1995 that I first got an idea that something might be wrong.

KosAbility logoKosAbility is a community diary series posted at 5 pm ET/2 pm PT every Sunday by volunteer diarists. This is a gathering place for people who are living with disabilities, who love someone with a disability, or who want to know more about the issues surrounding this topic. Our use of "disability" includes temporary as well as permanent conditions, and small, gnawing problems as well as big, life-threatening ones. Our use of "love someone" extends to beloved members of other species.

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I was born early. As a child I had problems with bronchitis. When I was in second grade a strain of flu almost killed me. Still I was always athletic and my lungs were constantly being given a workout. I didn’t have too much problem when I went to college in Denver in the 70s. It was only when I was living there with my ex-husband in 1995 that I noticed that I was getting winded even on the short walk to the mailboxes. Still I ignored it because I was living with the world’s biggest hypochondriac and was spending more time taking care of him then myself.

When I moved back to California in 1998 I was having more and more problems breathing. A good Doctor at Kaiser checked things out and realized that I now had C.O.P.D. and severe asthma. One evening I started coughing and couldn’t stop. My ex let me cough for 15 minutes before he finally called 911. The ambulance people and the Emergency Room staff were furious. It was the first time that I realized that this could kill me. I got out of the marriage and tried to take care of myself but the damage had already been done.

 I never smoked but always had bad allergies. I know I am allergic to mold and house dust. I keep my apartment as clean as I can. I use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to vacuum.  I use Lysol to kill the mold and because I can tolerate the smell without choking up. I dust with wet wipes that gather the dust and not spread it into the air. I have a decorative fountain that I use distilled water in to add some moisture to the air so it is easier to breathe. I found a waterless “vaporizer” by Vicks that puts menthol and eucalyptus into the air that I use in the bedroom at night. It makes it easier to breathe.

I have given up on running and skiing but I do walk as often as I can. I love photography so I’ll grab my camera and walk and take photographs. I can go as slow as I want and take the time to get all the angles I want in photographing nature. I love digital cameras.

One thing I can’t do is give up my cat. I’m sure it would be better if I didn’t have litter dust and cat fur around but my mental health would suffer too much if I didn’t have her. Pixie helped as a caregiver for my late Mom. I promised Mom I would keep Pixie. Sometimes you just have to vacuum more and live with the cat fur in order to have something that makes your heart sing.

Stress is a trigger for C.O.P.D. and I try and keep the stress down but I am now a caregiver to a 100% disabled younger brother. It is stressful but I try and do what I can to keep as calm as possible. I listen to a lot of new age music. I work on my art. I make jewelry. I have set up a home business to sell my art and jewelry. It will be a big focus this year. I read a lot. I love mysteries and science fiction. I love to cook and will use ingredients that help open me up like peppers, turmeric, onions, garlic, etc. I am writing a cookbook. I find if I concentrate on other things I can get away from the stress. Hearing "I love you" and "thank you for you have done for me" from my brother helps too. Of course having Pixie around making me laugh is another stress buster. I love Peter Jackson's movies and my brother and I are going to see The Hobbit Desolation of Smaug this weekend.

One of my favorite performers, Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers just died of complications of C.O.P.D. There is one thing I will not do and that is give up. Yes I know that C.O.P.D. can kill me but you know something? I plan to have a hell of a good time before that happens.

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